FATE AND SUCCESS TURNED TWO FORMER FINANCE PROFESSIONALS INTO RESTAURATEURS, WITH DELICIOUS RESULTS
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTO BY ROBERT NUZZIE
On a warm June night, couples and families stroll under glowing market lights along Red Bank streets transformed into pedestrian plazas. Many head to Ce’ La Vi, where tents and tables under the lights create an almost European ambiance as the smells of crepes waft overhead.
It’s a new world of dining in Red Bank, where officials, working with local businesses, began closing downtown streets Thursday through Sunday to support establishments reopening for business. It was an instant hit, and Erica Lieberman and Nick Napoletano could not be happier. The couple presides over their three eatery operation, all on the same street, happy to be welcoming their hungry fans back once more. It was a seven year journey to where they are today.
In 2013, Lieberman was working in finance, indulging in her passion of baking cupcakes off hours. She began renting a kiosk inside the former La Patisweet at 6 Monmouth Street in the borough’s busy downtown. By the end of that year, she and Napoletano had taken over the entire shop.
“I was also in finance; that’s how we met,” Napoletano said. “It (the restaurants) kind of just unfolded. The cupcakes started as a hobby that grew to weddings, bar mitzvahs, and more. We did well inside Patisweet. That owner did crepes, so when we took it over we kept traditional crepes, but also Americanized the crepe, adding more menu items.” The new name Whipped Creperie plus the inventive food and eye catching pink, white, and brown décor quickly gained an enthusiastic following.
Several years later, the owner of Red Bank institution Mr. Pizza Slice, located a few doors away, wanted to retire after 44 years. “We were offered to get into Mr. Pizza Slice,” Napoletano said. “We had big shoes to fill. Everyone knew the previous mascot, but we created a new character and expanded the menu.” The pizzeria never closed during the pandemic, growing its delivery business substantially.
“It was great to have the public support us,” Napoletano said, adding that the location is being revamped with new floors, a fire bricked oven, new menu, and a fun marketing campaign.
In spring 2019, the pair decided to renovate Whipped. About the same time, a cake on a stick shop, Lil’ Cutie Pops, vacated their space at 16 Monmouth Street. Lieberman had long wanted to create a salad focused dining experience. The couple’s decision was to turn Whipped into that concept and call it Toss’d. The Whipped brand became Ce’ La Vi, moving into the former Lil’ Cutie Pops spot.
“We came up with a concept and a theme for Ce’ La Vi, adding crystal chandeliers like in Whipped, a menu offering breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and desserts, and a black and white color scheme. We were open one year, getting great reviews, and hitting our numbers when the virus hit. Toss’d had been open only two months.”
As of late June, Ce’ La Vi and Toss’d were fully running with shorter menus, expected to expand in July. Customers old and new were flocking in for the homemade batters and desserts at Ce’ La Vi, and at Toss’d, the Create Your Own Salads, Signature Salads, wraps, organic smoothies, and juices.
“People are looking for healthy, fresh food,” Lieberman said. “Everything we serve at Toss’d is super fresh and made to order. We get produce every day.”
“Opportunities came our way and we took them,” added Napoletano. “We hope to get back to where we were. People need to come out and support small business.”
Ce’ La Vi
16 Monmouth Street / 732.747.0076 / celavicafe.com
6 Monmouth Street / 732.268.7657 / itstossd.com
Mr. Pizza Slice
10 Monmouth Street / 732.747.9165 / mrpizzaslice.com